It’s about time I found a Mazda worth writing up. I couldn’t, so this one will have to do. The few older representatives of the marque that are encountered on a fairly regular basis around here are the RX-7s – and usually only of the second or third generation, at that. From what I’m seeing on the ground, when it comes to wagons, Japanese classic car connoisseurs prefer RWD Nissans and Toyotas way above anything else. So when I saw this Capella, I was almost excited, though it struck me as rather aggressively bland.
If you have been reading most of the JDM wagon posts I’ve been writing since I moved to Japan, this Mazda’s production life is sure to sound familiar (but not “Familia,” that’s a different model.) By that, I mean that many of you will remember these as the Mazda 626, but also that this is another case of a wagon outlasting the saloon it derives from by several years.
The Toyota Mark II X70, the Toyota Crown S130 and S170 or the Nissan Cedric / Gloria Y30 are outstanding JDM examples of this peculiarity, which it seems is fairly (but not exclusively) prevalent in Japan. The wagons outlived their saloon ancestor by over a decade, in the Nissan and the Mark II’s case. As to the Mazda Capella wagon, its afterlife was relatively brief, by comparison: the saloon was made from 1987 to 1994, but the wagon lasted from 1988 to 1999.
Here’s the fifth generation Capella in its four main variants: saloon, hatchback, coupé and wagon / van. Engines for these fine machines included a 1.6 (73PS) for the base spec van, several versions of two 1.8 litre 4-cyl. (B- and F-series blocks, OHC and DOHC, anything from 82 to 115 PS), and several 2-litre options (petrol and Diesel, 61 to 165 PS). Most models could be had with AWD and some could also have electronic all-wheel steering.
But the wagon (and even more so the no frills van, of course) traditionally went for the more sedate stuff. AWD was not uncommon on these, but AWS was never on the options list – the fancy coupé and hatchback saloon got expensive toys like that.
Our feature car is a mid-level GLX with the 4-speed auto transmission; a 5-speed manual was standard. The interior, much like the exterior, looks nice enough but a bit on the bland side – completely in keeping with the era and target customer, I guess. Seats look rather comfy, though.
The French say that cuisine is the art of using leftovers, in which case Japanese carmakers are master chefs. The sixth generation Capella / 626 saloon took over in July 1994, but the standard-issue fifth generation Cargo wagon lasted 12 extra months. For its part, the van was sold until early 1999.
Additionally, from 1994 to 1997, Mazda also marketed the Capella Wagon (sans “Cargo”). It was a sort of CUV based on the Cargo Wagon, but was given a second life with the help of substantial body cladding and the dash of the Ford Telstar, a blue oval variant of the Capella sold in several Asia-Pacific countries.
Mazdas seem to fall into two categories: madly styled rotary-powered exotics or characterless snorefest appliances. It’s pretty clear that the fifth generation Capella, aside from some coupés, is neither glamorously styled, particularly performance-oriented nor technologically daring – certainly not enough to stand out of the crowd. The wagon’s decade-plus production run was not even enough to warrant a substantial following: I haven’t seen any of those later CUV-style Capellas around. They exited stage left, like a great many unlamented models that have not had a lasting impact, nor a wide fan base. This 30-year-old wagon is relatively rare nowadays, especially in this condition, but it’s still less than exceptional.
CC Capsule: Monday Morning Rarities – 1988 Mazda 626 Turbo, Sleeper Personified, by JohnH875
COAL: 1986 and 1991 Mazda 626 – Ongoing Love Affair, by TBM3Fan
COAL NFL Edition: Pro Football Player With $3.5 Million Contract Still Driving 1991 Mazda 626 He Bought For $2, by PN
My girlfriend had an ’89 Mazda MX6 2 door coupe (aka Ford Probe but not as good looking). Champagne outside and dark red coarse cloth seats/interior… seemed very luxurious… and dependable… I thought it was a V6 to first drive it, but it was a strong 4 banger… good MPG…
Turbo by any chance? The turbo 4 was very powerful, and very smooth for a four. I had one in a 626 sedan.
Mazda did the same thing with the GLC (North American version of Familia/323) when the FWD second generation sedans/saloons and hatchbacks arrived in 1981 but the rear-drive wagon from the first generation was sold alongside it for a few additional years, now with a taller roof. The U.S. never got the Capella/626 wagon and I didn’t even know they existed, nor any AWD versions much less the Outback-like variant.
Although it wasn’t sold in the US with any body style, the 1980s 929/Luce wagons skipped a generation, so the previous generation wagon outlasted other body styles by about 7 years.
Handsome, cleanly styled, function-mostly-before-form wagon. Right in that sweet transitional spot between the overly boxy 1980s and bubbly 1990s, just like the Accord of this year. Very nice example, though pairing that little 1.8L four to a 4spd slushbox takes away from the appeal.
I haven’t seen a Mazda6 of this vintage in the states for years. I always liked the way they looked.
I’m with Petrichor; this wagon appeals to me. A teammate of mine, twenty-odd years ago, had a sedan. It had these neat air ducts that swept back and forth automagically, like an oscillating desk fan.
T87, how dare you call the Mazda GD series bland ! The GD-626 tied with the Honda Prelude as the first to offer 4WS. The top model hatchback with twin cams made 148 PS from its’ two-litre engine, there were also turbo versions and a 2.2 litre version for 4WD models. And yes, those seats were very comfortable. I still pine for my GLX hatchback, even with its’ faded red paint. The low gearing ( you went everywhere in fifth ) and the plastic rim of the steering wheel were the only let-downs.
Now Ive got a task for you Tatra that Mazda was rebadged as a Honda see it you can find one of those or have they all been sent here, that car became the first gen Orthia the one Wiki doesnt know about.
I haven’t seen a GD Mazda 626/Capella wagon in a very long time, although there is a 626 sedan in town, as well as three badge-engineered 1990-92 Telstar station wagons. I followed one of the Telstars home two days ago in a badge-engineered CC-effect. Quite unremarkable, but apparently reliable if so many (relatively speaking!) Capella/Telstars remain in one small rural New Zealand town.
My parents had a Capella-twin 1990 Telstar wagon, which was a factory special edition and looked quietly elegant with two-tone paint, flat-face alloy wheels and the distinctive wrap-over rear glass. Comfy seats, good ride/handling, over-light power steering. Overall good but definitely unremarkable. And definitely not related in any way to the Orthia – last time that comment surfaced I rang Honda NZ and John Andrew Ford (NZ’s largest dealer), both of whom confirmed no Capella has ever been rebadged a Honda. Honda NZ pointed out the Orthia was basically a Civic wagon.